David Wright was the track coach at Pulaski County High School for years; now he teaches PhysEd at Pulaski’s Critzer Elementary School. His students could always say they were going to gym class with a dedicated amateur athlete. Starting this semester, they’ll be able to say they’re learning from an amateur athlete who brought home the (Commonwealth) gold five times.
Wright competed as part of a relay swim team in this year’s Subway Commonwealth Games, nicknamed “the Virginia Olympics.” He came back, like each member of his team, with five first-place medals.
“I’ve been formally training for it since school was out in June, seven days a week, but before that I trained for it two or three days a week since last summer,” Wright said. “Three years ago, maybe four, I swam by myself. And last year was the first year I got on the relay. One of my brothers turned 60, and I was 62, so I said if he wanted, I would get two more people, and we would have a relay of four people age 60, we could do OK. There were five relays, and we would do all five relays.”
Wright ended up with a team of five, comprised of himself, his brother, and three friends. The team rotated who swam in which relay, as each race only required four team members. His team was in the 60 and over division, though one member was only 59.
They won the 200-meter medley relay, the 100-meter freestyle relay, the 400-meter medley relay, the 200-meter freestyle relay, and the 800-meter freestyle. A medley, in swim races, involves each team member doing a different stroke on his leg of the race; the meter count is how many meters the team collectively swims.
Wright, who lives in Blacksburg, didn’t have to go far; the swim events for this year’s games were held at the Aquatic Center in Christiansburg. Competitors came from across the state to race.
Wright’s watery sojourn began in earnest after a sports injury. He had run “off and on since I was about 12,” he recounted. “Originally I was a runner, and I coached running at Pulaski County High School for 20-some years, and then about 20 years ago I injured my knee, and I could still run some. But about five years ago I went to the doctor and he said I shouldn’t run anymore. And I started swimming more and stopped running.”
He continued, “I had an ACL replaced I guess 22 years ago. As the years progressed, the cartilage on the ACL replacement knee wore out. The last time I went to the doctor he said half of the cartilage on that knee was gone and I shouldn’t run anymore. A few years ago, maybe four years ago, I swam and ran.”
Since then, he has kept to swimming, where the weightlessness of the water helps prevent further injury. “Everything’s good swimming,” he said. “I’ve only been injured running. It was a softball injury that caused the knee surgery.”
Wright said he didn’t mention his ambition to his students before. “That’s sort of why I wanted to put it in the paper. So, you know, they can see that old people can exercise, too. It’s good for everybody to exercise.”